Fantasy Book Review

Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz

by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Series: Oz 23
Reviewed date: 2023 Jul 27
223 pages
cover art

Peter Brown and Jack Pumpkinhead
Peter Brown, previously introduced in book 21, The Gnome King of Oz, finds himself once again in Oz. He falls in with Jack Pumpkinhead, and both manage to get themselves royally lost. They must find their way back to the Emerald City.

Magical items
Peter picks up a few magical items. First is a sack that swallows up anything put into it. Second, the Red Jinn's dinner bell, which, when rung, will cause a slave to magically appear and set forth a full dinner.

Peter and Jack Pumpkinhead also pick up an Iffin, a griffin who lost his gr-. Also joining them is Belfaygor, the Baron of Bourne, who has been enchanted with a beard that never stops growing at a rate measured in feet per minute (or faster.) This Belfaygor intends to marry the beautiful princess Shirley Sunshine, but she's been stolen by the evil Mogodore.

Of course Mogodore wants to conquer Oz, which he manages to do. Peter, Belfaygore, and Jack Pumpkinhead must overthrow Mogodore and restore order.

Actual cleverness, not magical deus ex machina
Jack Pumpkinhead is a favorite character, and I like how Thompson lets Jack make some clever choices to resolve a sticky situation. That's better than having Glinda or the Wizard swoop in to fix everything. And not just Jack Pumpkinhead: Peter is really clever when he makes use of the dinner bell to help in a fight. By continually ringing the bell, he gets the Red Jinn's magical slave to deliver plates of dinner, which he can throw (being a baseball fanatic he can pitch pretty well) at their attackers. Very clever.

I'd still rate this book lower than most of Baum's Oz books, but it's the first of Ruth Plumly Thompson's books to remind me of Baum. Maybe it's because there are fewer puns (still a lot of puns, just fewer) and some actual clever solutions to problems (which Baum often had, though he had a lot of magical deus ex machina too.)

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